When I arrived at 3pm the cafe was very quiet, with just one other table taken. And there, right in front of me, was our table all laid out with our pretty coated-iron tea stand laden with all sorts of goodies. It was a surprise to see it there waiting for us, but a pleasant one. All we had to do was choose our tea. Bake-a-Boo sell quite a selection of Martyn's Teas - it's good to see another tea room supporting this local business - and they had a large selection of tea on their menu which they had split into those available in bags and the loose leaf variety. As I always choose loose leaf if available, and like a black tea with milk when I'm eating cake, I had the choice of English Breakfast, Assam & Earl Grey. Between us, over the course of the afternoon, we tried all three, and were impressed by them all - although, in truth, I wouldn't have minded a couple more to choose from.
The attention to detail in the cafe is fantastic. There's a lovely 1950s vibe with pastel spotted bunting and chintzy, old-fashioned crockery - all pleasingly mismatched. One thing that I loved was the large china jug of water on the table - even though I find tea incredibly refreshing, when I'm drinking a lot of it I do like to have some water too. There were plenty of nice things to look at, such as interesting cards, packs of tea, party invitations, and, of course, lots of cakes - many of which were on our table.
But we began proceedings with sandwiches. Each of us had 6 finger-sandwiches, with either cream cheese, cucumber or egg mayonnaise filling. Unfortunately, the downside of preparing the afternoon tea in advance is that these kind of finger sandwiches inevitably go a little dry. Coupled with that, the fillings were somewhat on the meagre side. To give you an idea, I would usually use about twice as much filling at home. Perhaps I like a particularly full sandwich, but Miss O was in agreement. Still, the sandwiches are just the foundations upon which the glorious edifice of the afternoon tea is built: they may be important, but if the layers above are good then nobody really minds too much.
That certainly proved to be the case with this tea. To say there was plenty would be quite an understatement. We each had: two scones (no fruit but still nice); a teapot shaped butter biscuit (very cute); three chocolate-dipped strawberries (the nicest I've ever had, thanks to the chocolate having a ganache quality rather than the usual hardness); a selection of old-fashioned sweeties (fudge and flying saucers); a slice of banana cake with an absolutely fantastic passionfruit buttercream topping; and lastly a full size cupcake (vanilla sponge with a thick fondant icing). To go with our scones, the table came equipped with a large bowl of strawberry jam and another large bowl of whipped cream. I hate it when you're given those rather measly little ramekins so it was great to have enough topping to match the scones - the only disappointment being that the cream was whipped rather that clotted. For me, whipped cream just can't match up, but I dare say my arteries will appreciate the break just this once.
The highlights for me were entirely unexpected: that banana cake and those strawberries were really good. They sounded straightforward but both had a delicious twist. The other really lovely thing was the atmosphere of the place. It was clearly run with love and an attention to detail that you can appreciate as soon as you walk in. And it's obviously loved by quite a few locals too. Come 3.30pm the place was absolutely chock-a-block with mums and their offspring on the way home from school. Apparently, they are planning to start offering courses in the mornings (they are currently closed until 2pm) which will hopefully see even more business coming their way. The afternoon tea may not have been absolutely perfect, and at £15 it wasn't a total bargain like others I've had, but it was certainly very enjoyable. Let's put it this way, I could very easily be tempted into a return visit. Next time I'd probably just go for tea and cake - you know, the healthy option... But a business like this, that puts so much care and attention into their premises - and makes some pretty mean cakes to boot - deserves our custom, and I for one intend to do my duty.